Are you an amazing rapper trying to make it big with your mixtape, but you aren’t sure where to begin? Well, look no further.
To make a rap mixtape, you will need to decide on a concept, find your beats, write your lyrics, produce your mixtape, get high-quality cover art, promote your mixtape, and remember -don’t give up!
Below, I’ve outlined the steps you will need to take to make your rap mixtape. Follow them closely, and don’t forget to add some of your own rapper flair to the mix 🙂
Decide on a Concept
The first step when making a mixtape is deciding what you want it to be about. Your mixtape will be more successful if you have a theme instead of a random compilation of unrelated tracks. People enjoy hearing tapes that have a story behind them!
For example, in Nikki Minaj’s first mixtape, Playtime is Over, she used complicated wordplay to convey her theme that she is a talented rapper (more talented than some famous rappers at the time) and that she deserves recognition and respect. While this theme may not resonate with you, find one that does! Mixtapes should be personal and show people what you are all about.
Find Your Beats
When deciding how you are going to get beats for your mixtape, you have three options:
- Lease beats from producers
- Rap over popular beats
- Make originals
Lease Beats From Producers
Leasing beats from producers is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to get high-quality beats. Many of these beats can cost as little as $20 to $25. Leasing beats is a great option if you don’t have the equipment to make your own beats or if you don’t have the money to have someone make original beats for you.
- You do not own the beat. Since you are leasing the beat, other rappers can use the same track. If you want to be the exclusive owner of the beat, you are going to have to spend a lot more cash.
- Read the license agreement. This agreement lets you know the producer’s rules regarding selling a mixtape that uses their beat, whether or not you can use the beat in a music video, and so on. If you don’t read the agreement and end up breaking it, the producer can sue you.
- “Free download” does not mean the beat is free! If the producer offers you a free download, they are likely letting you SAMPLE the beat for free, not letting you use it free of charge. However, if you are interacting with an up and coming producer, they may agree to let you use their beat for free to get their name out there. However, don’t assume this is the case without talking to them first!
Rap Over Popular Beats
There are thousands of popular beats readily available at your fingertips. All you have to do is find a few that will work well with your concept and rap style.
Using famous beats in your mixtape is a great way to get exposure (since others will recognize the beat) while also showcasing your unique style. Make sure to make the beat your own instead of copying the sound of the famous rapper that used the beat originally. Try to wow people with your creativity!
To find popular beats, simply search the name of the person that sings the song, the name of the song, and then type in “instrumental.” For example, if you want an instrumental version of Drake’s In My Feelings, you would type in “Drake In My Feelings Instrumental” to find instrumental versions of this track. Try to use beats that are well known, but not overused for the best results.
If you choose to go this route, you need to realize that your mixtape can only be used for promotional purposes. If you try to sell a mixtape that has famous beats incorporated in it, you can get into some serious trouble and may even be sued. If you use an instrumental and are ever contacted by the producer and asked to take it off of your mixtape, it is highly advised that you do so to avoid legal action.
Make Original Beats
Making original beats is the most challenging route, but it may also be the most rewarding. This is the best way to ensure you are getting the exact sound you want. Also, you don’t have to worry about copyright issues or lease agreements since this beat is 100% yours.
Some ways to go about making original beats include getting the equipment and making your own, or finding someone to make original beats for you.
If you want to make your own beats, you will need a few tools to get started. First, you will need a computer so that you can download beat making software, also known as your digital audio workstation (DAW). Below, I’ve listed a few of the most popular ones:
- FL Studio provides you with a package to compose, arrange, record, edit, and mix professional quality music. FL Studio is very good but can be pricey. The packages range from $99 to $899, depending on how many features and plug-ins you get.
- MAGIX Music Maker comes with a free version and is great for beginners. But the free version is limited, so if you want more features, the paid version is available for a one-time payment of $99.
- Soundtrap allows you to make beats easily and intuitively. This software has over 4000 beats and presets. It also includes an autotune feature to enhance your sound. A subscription to the premium program is $13.99 per month.
- Slice Sounds includes millions of samples, loops, and presets to create your ideal beat. Splice includes a royalty-free sample library for even more sounds. To access all of the features, you will need to pay $7.99 per month.
If you want someone to make an original beat for you, you will need to get in contact with a producer to determine how much it will cost, how long it will take them to make the beat, and so on.
Write Your Lyrics
Your lyrics are your way of standing out and proving that you’ve got what it takes to be the next big rapper. Make sure your lyrics fit your concept while also flowing nicely with your selected beats.
Some of the most famous rappers out there, such as Jay-Z, all began their rap journey by writing lyrics every day. Lyrics are what make rappers famous, so make sure your mixtape has some great ones.
As a side note, it’s best to use new content for your mixtape instead of using lyrics you’ve already released. The whole purpose of your mixtape is to get your name out there and to make people excited, so if your listeners are hearing old content, it may “kill the hype” (ruin your reputation). Creating new tracks that match your mixtape theme is the way to go!
Produce Your Mixtape
At this point, you’ve got your concept, beats, and lyrics. Now, it’s time to put it all together and produce your mixtape.
When you produce your mixtape, the first step will be to record your vocals. Make sure you get a couple of takes, even if you think you did well on your first recording so that you have options. After you’ve picked your favorite take, you will overlay it onto your instrumental.
When you are recording your vocals, you may be unsure as to whether you should record all of your tracks during one recording session, or only one or two at a time. On his YouTube channel, DJ TLM ( a DJ with over 27 years of experience DJing and producing tracks), recommends recording your mixtape track by track for the best results. This allows you to take time with each track and edit it to ensure the best quality possible.
As for where you record your vocals, you have two options. You can either record your mixtape in-house (if you have the right equipment) or at a studio.
While recording at home is convenient and will probably save you money in the long run, you will need to invest in some high-quality equipment so that you aren’t compromising the quality of your mixtape. E-Home Recording Studio recommends that you purchase the following items for an ideal recording experience:
- A computer with fast processing speed. The faster, the better.
- DAW was mentioned above. This is your recording software, such as Fl Studio, Soundtrack, etc.
- Audio interface is the hardware used to connect your computer to the rest of your gear. Presonus USB-C Audio Interface is a highly rated, studio-quality audio interface available on Amazon.
- Studio monitors are speakers that are designed to be used in a studio setting to provide you with great sound quality so that you can pick up on even the smallest imperfections on your track. If you want studio monitors with a smooth and refined sound, check out the Presonus E3.5 Pair. You get two studio monitors for only $99.95!
- A microphone so you can record your vocals. If you want a highly rated microphone for an affordable price, check out Audio-Technica Cardioid Condenser Microphone.
- Headphones with great sound quality. Check out these Sennheiser Headphones (new model) from Amazon. They are perfect for all of your recording needs!
- Cables to connect your microphone to your audio interface. Try to get a cable that is at least 15-25 ft (4.6-7.6 m) long to give yourself some room to move around.
- A mic stand to support your mic and adjust its height. The Tripod Boom Microphone Stand by AmazonBasics is sturdy, lightweight, and can adjust the mic’s height from 3.3 to 5.6 ft (1-1.7 m).
- A pop filter is used to prevent popping sounds caused by fast-moving air coming from your mouth during recorded speaking or singing. Pop filters also protect your microphone from saliva build-up. Get your pop filter after you buy your microphone to make sure it is compatible.
Studio recording is very simple and doesn’t require any complicated set up on your part. You simply go to the studio, record your vocals, and pay the recording fee.
Make sure you get in contact with the studio you are thinking about recording with ahead of time to determine if they are right for you. Studios vary greatly in what they charge, ranging from $50 to $500 per hour. Sometimes this charge includes an audio engineer as part of the hourly rate, which can be helpful if you are producing your first mixtape. Nonetheless, these fees add up quickly, so make sure you are prepared each time you head to the studio.
Get High-Quality Mixtape Cover Art
High-quality cover art that is unique, and related to your concept, can help separate you from the competition and draw in your listeners. You want to avoid poor quality graphics, which can deter people from pushing play on your mixtape. Good cover art is clean and not crammed with busy graphics or too much information.
There are a couple of sites you can use to get high-quality cover art that won’t empty your pockets, including:
- Fivver is a website for freelance writers, animators, artists, and more. Each freelancer creates a page showing off their work and their cost. You can look through thousands of artists to find the one that is right for you.
- Upwork is very similar to Fivver. Many freelancers post their services on Upwork. All you have to do is look through and pick your favorite!
Promote Your Mixtape
Promoting your mixtape is the key to success. Even famous rappers like Jay-Z started out by promoting their music any way they could.
There are a variety of ways you can promote your mixtape. Some of the most popular include showcasing your mixtape at clubs, getting DJs and radio stations to play your mixtape, and promoting your mixtape online.
Head to different clubs in your area and start sharing your mixtape! Put up promotional flyers to get exposure. Make sure you have samples of your mixtape on hand so you can share it with anyone that is interested!
Printing up some business cards with your name, contact info, and a website is also a great tool. One of the best ways to build notoriety is by sharing your business card with local individuals, the people most likely to come to your first shows!
If you have the means, you could even have a mix tape release party at a club and perform. You could find some club owners that might agree to this without payment if you do a free performance [and you are good:)].
DJ/Radio Station Promotion
Contact all of your local radio stations and try to get your mixtape on air. If the station likes your mixtape and agrees to share it, make sure you include name drops throughout it so that people will remember your name. If you have a friend of a friend who has an “in” with a local station, that’s a great way to get your foot in the door.
If more popular stations don’t want to air your mixtape, try to get it played on college stations. College stations are typically more niche and don’t reach as many people, but college kids are a great audience for rap, so this may be a great way to increase your following.
A step above simply playing your mixtape on the station is getting an on-air interview. This will let the station listeners know who you are so that, if they like your mixtape, they’ll be able to look you up.
You can also contact local DJs and share your mixtape with them. Try to build relationships with these DJs so that they will continue to share your work.
The internet provides you with endless ways to promote your mixtape. Social media, online publications, and blogs can help get your name out there.
Use every social media platform available to promote your mixtape. Make your mixtape a big deal by getting people excited for the drop date. After you release your mixtape, share it everywhere you possibly can to get as many listeners as possible. Ask your friends to share your mixtape on their social media platforms as well to reach more people.
Some of the best social media platforms for promoting your mixtape include:
- Facebook is a wonderful social media platform for sharing your mixtape because you can reach a large audience. If your friends and family enjoy your mixtape, they have the option to share it on Facebook and reach even more people.
- Twitter is a great way to get your name out there prior to releasing your mixtape. The goal is to build a fan base that will be more inclined to listen to your music when it’s released (and maybe even retweet it).
- Soundcloud is technically a form of social media for sharing user-generated audio. This is a great way to share your mixtape and start building an online fan base.
Another way to promote your mixtape is through bloggers and online publications. Send a press release to any rap related online publication or blogger. Writers are constantly looking for new and interesting content, so put yourself out there and see if they bite! You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Don’t Give Up
Jay-Z talks about how no one would sign him when he put out his first music in 1986. The record label companies all told him that he was terrible and that no one would want to listen to him. He didn’t let this deter him and continued to promote his music independently. He would go to record stores, show them his music, and sell records that way. Eventually, Jay-Z opened up his own record label company and made it big.
Don’t let your doubts stop you from putting your mixtape out there! With hard work and perseverance, you could become the world’s next big rap star.
Follow the steps above and, before you know it, you’ll be releasing your first mixtape. Don’t forget to keep going even when times get tough! Through hard work and perseverance, your mixtape just might catapult you into stardom.
- AIMM: 5 Steps to Creating a Successful Mixtape – Creating and Promoting Your Music
- Music Industry How To: How To Make A Mixtape For Beginners In 5 Steps
- Music Industry How To: How To Record Your First Song From Home Cheaply: The Basics For Beginners
- Wiki How: How to Create a Mixtape
- Curtiss King TV: 4 Things RAPPERS Should Know Before Buying Beats Online
- HOV Videos: Jay-Z – Writing Process and Being Turned Down by Most Labels – 2001
- Independent Music Advice: How to Make a Mixtape, The Ultimate Guide Part 1
- Music Gateway: Best Beat Making Software Online 2020
- DJ TLM TV: The best way to record your mixtape (Tuesday Tips)
- Recording Connection: How Much Do Good Music Studios Cost
- DIY Music Biz: How To Create & Release A Hiphop Mixtape On A Tight Budget
- E Home Recording Studio: CHAPTER 1: The 9 Home Recording Studio Essentials for Beginners
- Musically: SoundCloud: ‘Do not think of us [just] as a streaming service… we’re a form of social media’
- Complex: Looking Back At Your Favorite Rappers’ First Mixtapes